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Skilled Worker ILR

You can become eligible to switch from a Skilled Worker Visa to ILR after you have lived in the UK continuously with sponsored status for 5 years.

Skilled worker visas are granted for a period of up to 5 years. At the end of this visa period, you apply to extend your visa or you can make an application for Indefinite Leave to Remain.

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To apply to switch from a Skilled Worker Visa to ILR status, you will need to show you in your application that you meet the ILR requirements.

For both visa holders and UK sponsors, understanding these rules will be key to ensuring a smooth transition from Skilled Worker to ILR once an applicant has lived in the UK for 5 years. In this way, migrants and their employers can work together, in advance, to ensure any application to switch is successful and the worker can remain in the UK indefinitely.

Skilled Worker visa to ILR requirements

Appendix Skilled Worker sets out the specific requirements for Skilled Worker visa holders to apply for ILR in relation to:

  • Eligibility requirements, ie meeting the relevant qualifying period; showing continuous residence (as set out under Appendix Continuous Residence), proving knowledge of English language and life in the UK (as set out under Appendix KOL) and meeting the ILR salary threshold (as set out under Appendix Skilled Worker).
  • Suitability requirements, ie meeting general grounds to remain.
  • Validity requirements, ie following the ILR application and process rules.

Qualifying period

Once you have lived in the UK under a Skilled Worker visa for a continuous period of 5 years, you will be able to apply to stay on a permanent basis. This 5-year period does not necessarily need to be made up solely of time spent on a Skilled Worker visa, although the applicant’s most recent permission must be under the Skilled Worker or Tier 2 (General) route. The 5 year period must also comprise of time with permission on any of, or any combination of, the following immigration routes:

  • Tier 2 (General) or Skilled Worker
  • T2 Minister of Religion
  • T2 Sportsperson
  • Global talent
  • Innovator
  • Representative of an Overseas Business, or
  • Tier 1, other than as a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur)

ILR continuous residence

To be eligible to switch from Skilled Worker to ILR status, the applicant will need to show a continuous period of 5 years in the UK under any relevant route. Appendix Continuous Residence sets out the supplementary rules relating to how continuous residence can be broken, how any absences from the UK are calculated and what absences won’t be counted.

When applying for ILR as a Skilled Worker, the period of time an applicant can be absent from the UK without breaking their continuous residence is typically no more than 180 days in any 12-month period. The way that this calculation will depend on whether the applicant’s visa was granted before or after 11 January 2018 when the calculation rules changed.

English language requirement

If the applicant is aged 64 or under when they apply to switch from Skilled Worker to ILR status, they must satisfy the Knowledge of Life in the UK (KOL) requirement.

Appendix KOL UK should not be confused with Appendix KOLL under the Immigration Rules. Appendix KOLL sets out how applicants for ILR must demonstrate sufficient knowledge of the English language and about life in the UK. However, applications for settlement under the Skilled Worker route are subject to separate simplified rules under Appendix KOL UK. A skilled worker will have satisfied the English language requirement in their initial application.

Under Appendix KOL, an applicant must pass what’s known as the Life in the UK Test. This means that they must provide a valid digital reference number from an approved test provider showing they have passed. An applicant must book their Life in the UK Test online at least 3 days in advance. There are over 30 UK test centres to choose from.

The requirement to pass this test is applicable to all migrants switching from Skilled Worker to ILR status unless at the date of application they:

  • Are aged 65 or over, or
  • Have a physical or mental disability which prevents them from meeting the requirement.

Skilled worker to ILR salary threshold

To switch from Skilled Worker to ILR status, the applicant’s employer, as set out in their most recent permission, must still be approved to sponsor skilled workers on the date of the decision and not just the date of application. The employer must also provide confirmation that the applicant is still required to work for them, at least for the foreseeable future, and that the applicant is paid a salary that meets the minimum threshold for settlement and will continue to be paid this salary, again for the foreseeable future.

This means that the applicant’s salary must be at least the general salary requirement of £25,600 per annum or the ‘going rate’ for their job, whichever is higher. For example, if the applicant’s salary is £29,000 but the ‘going rate’ for their job is £30,000, they will not satisfy the salary requirement for ILR.

There are, however, different salary rules where the applicant was sponsored in their most recent permission for a job that falls within a shortage occupation, or for certain healthcare or education jobs as set out under Table 2 of Appendix Skilled Occupations. In respect of any of these jobs, the salary must be at least £20,480 or the ‘going rate’.

The lower salary threshold of 20,480 also applies to applications where the 5-year qualifying period for ILR includes time as a Tier 2 (General) worker in a number of specified occupation codes including scientists; natural and social science professionals not elsewhere classified; research and development managers; and higher education teaching professionals.

Any other salary reductions that are permitted through tradable points when applying for limited leave to remain under the Skilled Worker route do not apply to ILR applications.

ILR validity requirements

To successfully switch from Skilled Worker to ILR status, the application must meet all of the following validity requirements:

  • Any fee must have been paid
  • The applicant must have provided any biometrics
  • The applicant must have provided a valid passport or other travel document to establish their identity and nationality, and
  • The applicant must also be in the UK on the date of application

An application which does not meet these requirements for settlement as a Skilled Worker will be treated as invalid. This means the application may be rejected and not considered.

Suitability requirements

In addition, even where all the validity and eligibility requirements have been met, an application could still be refused if the applicant is not considered suitable for ILR. This could be because:

  • The applicant has given false or incomplete information in their application
  • The applicant has a criminal record either in the UK or another country
  • The applicant is in breach of the UK’s Immigration Rules, eg, they have overstayed

These are known as general grounds for refusal. However, these rules are lengthy and complex, so it is always best to seek expert legal advice before submitting an application. Advice should also be sought on any other potential pitfalls prior to applying, including where applicants have exceeded or almost exceeded the limit on the number of allowable absences and what documentation should be provided in support.

Need assistance?

We are specialists in UK immigration, with substantial experience and recognised expertise in advising employers and their sponsored workers on immigration options to remain in the UK to live and work. For specialist immigration advice on a Skilled Worker Visa to ILR application, contact us.

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